Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Be Prepared."
That statement has been pressed in front of me today.
I was reading a blog by the sister of a woman who was in an airplane crash with her husband. She mentioned that her sister had just taken on the mantra "Be Prepared" the week before the accident. How fortunate because her house was in perfect order and well stocked making it so easy to care for the couple's four children. My mother is in a similar, although thankfully less severe, situation. She fell and broke her pelvis in two places. Since she will be off her feet for quite some time, she mentioned being thankful that the house was in order before it happened.

I can't help but turn my thoughts to my own home. [sigh] It's not so in order. It is messy, unorganized and even my own family members, and often even *I* can't find things. If something were to happen to me today, how difficult would it be for my family to function? I certainly hope, I don't feel burdened by this because something tragic is going to happen in my family, but it is making me think. I am not being a good steward of my stuff or my time when I am unorganized. For example, I spend way too much time digging through my big ol' pile of clean laundry to try and find a complete outfit for each of my kids each day. Of course it also takes time to sort, fold and hang all those clothes, too, but it is probably a better way to spend my time because there is way less frustration involved.

So, what does it mean to be prepared? I am thinking about this and here are a few ideas that I have come up with that I think are important for our family household:

Minimal clutter because clutter hides what's important.

stocked with items to make complete meals (still trying to decide how far ahead
to stock for).

Clothing in order for all family members.

and first aid supplies stocked and organized.

Files organized enough that
someone else can easily find things.

Emergency fund set aside.

I am sure I could come up with a much longer list, but I think these are the biggies. If these things were in place and in order, we would be better prepared if something happened to either Barry or me or if something happened to make us unable to get supplies.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Good Ol' Summertime

Well, a good old summertime cold has knocked me down recently. It has backed into my sinuses and ears and made me pretty miserable for over a week now. I was persuaded to finally call the doctor and discovered that I was even running a fever over 100 degrees. I had been so busy that I hadn't even checked it. I just kept taking ibuprofen so that I could keep going. Sadly, this has been a busy week that has not afforded me the time to get sick. The older girls and I all entered projects in the county 4-H fair that were all due last weekend. Along with that we had TWO family reunions to go to which meant extra food to fix. So, now I am equipped with an antibiotic and I am praying that it does the trick and I can get back to feeling myself. I am falling desperately behind on the house cleaning and laundry due to my lack of get-up-and-go.

As a side note, the garden is finally starting to flourish. It took a little longer because I got things in the ground nearly a month late. I went out Wednesday to harvest some basil and discovered 4 beautiful, red cherry tomatoes! The were wonderful. I also discovered Japanese Beatles on my basil. They were eating, mating, laying eggs and partying all over it. There had to be over a dozen on my one small plant. I was pretty irritated because I had been out looking at these plants just the day before and there weren't any. I didn't think bugs were fond of herbs either. Guess I was wrong there. I got a tin can and put a little gasoline in it and went to hand pick them off the plant and drown them. Crazy thing is, as soon as I got close, it was as if someone yelled "COPS!" and all of them dropped and scattered. I had to go chasing them through the dirt. I think I got them all. I am a wicked foe when I am mad and I was mad at those little buggers. Ick! Yesterday, I didn't see any back on any of the plants, but I am going to check again today. Then I removed all signs of them off the plant: all the half eaten leaves and leaves with eggs or poo (I am not sure which it was). I still ended up getting several nice bunches of basil that are currently drying in the basement.

One more mom took a really bad fall this week resulting in broken bones. Please pray for a speedy and relatively painless recovery for her. She is going to be off her feet for a while so my dad could use your prayers, too, because he will have to be taking care of her and all the other household chores that would normally fall to her.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Just a little Friday humor...

Be sure to read the whole sign.

A friend just e-mailed me this and I suppose this made me laugh because it reminded me of this:

If you can't see this video, the link is here.
Jim Gaffigan has been getting a lot of quoting in our house of late. If you have a chance to see his King Baby show on Comedy Central, it is certainly good for some good laughs. What I really appreciate is that he is funny AND clean for the most part - a rarity in the comedy world. I love that I can comfortably watch him with my kids.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I scrapbooked!

I actually scrapbooked! It has been WAY too long since I have found the time to do this. Sadly, I have been slacking at taking photos, too, which is pretty bad since I have a fast growing baby in the house. I do, thankfully, have some photos. I just wish I had more.
The days are full beyond measure and I am constantly have to be selective with what is on my to do list because there is no way to get it ALL done. For my sanity, I cannot neglect the household management. It takes less than a day of ignoring the household chores for this place to turn into quite a sty! I have also found that I need to keep something creative in my day to keep my sanity, too. It is just so easy to say I will do that [creative thing] after the laundry is done or this clutter is dealt with. BUT, sadly, the laundry is NEVER done and there's always more clutter. Sometimes you just have to turn a blind eye if you ever want to do anything fun. I think the key is finding that place where the messes aren't overwhelming and the fun still happens.
Anyway, I took the time to go through some photos yesterday and I scrapbooked this one. Yay! It is of my baby at the zoo last week sitting on Gramp's lap. I think he is looking so old. It is amazing how much babies change in just a few short months! Speaking of the little guy, he is sitting on my lap as I type this and trying desperately to reach the keys. Gone are the days where he would sleep peacefully on my lap while I am on the computer. I suppose that is why I have found it so difficult to scrapbook. If you are interested, all the credits and details of this page can be found here at Cottage Arts.
Edited to add:
I get irritated with blogger. It always does weird, inconsistant thigs with my formatting. Today it doesn't want to leave a space between my paragraphs. Other days it will put 4 or 5. Anyway, sorry about that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Upcycled Nightgown from a Vintage Bedsheet

Definition: Upcycling is "The practice of taking something that is disposable
and transforming it into something of greater use and value" From the book
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and
Michael Braungart.

This nightgown had a former life as a bed sheet. It as a vintage bedsheet that I picked up at my church's rummage sale for 50 cents. It is soft and smooth with no pilling - probably a high thread count. Because it has probably been washed dozens and dozens of times, I can be sure that it should hold up in good condition.

I used Simplicity 2739 pattern to create this which I picked up at Wal-Mart for a good price. I chose this pattern style because with nursing a baby, I need to have something with either buttons down the front or will pull down under my chest like this.

I used the finished edge of the sheet for my hem. That way it was already finished and had this cute accent trim.

This pattern was labeled as "easy" and although it was not hard to do it was time consuming because there was a lot of bias tape casing to sew on and feed elastic though. There is elastic on the sleeve edge, around the neck and in the back along the waist. The pattern called for purchased single-fold bias tape, but I wanted mine to match the fabric so I used a bias tape maker to create my own from my sheet fabric. Unfortunately, the only thing I had that was small enough to fit through here to feed the elastic through was a little 1/2" gold safety pin so that process was a bit time-consuming and tedious as there were many feet of elastic to deal with.

I should have probably kept track of exactly how long this took me. I spent several hours Saturday afternoon and then a couple more late Saturday night. Then I spent a couple more yesterday to finish it up. A lot of my time on Saturday was figuring out how to alter the pattern so it would fit my chest correctly. I am not real good at pattern alteration. This came out fairly well, although if I do it again, I will probably tweak the bodice size a little bit more.

All in all I am pretty pleased with this project. It was very low cost - way less than buying a nightgown from the store even with the cost of the pattern and I am sure I will use the pattern again and took me about 6 hours to complete. I also think it is cool to give new life to something unused that was probably destined for the trash. I took something unused and made it useful. I like that and I love my new nightgown. I had been wearing a very old one that had gotten awfully grungy. My new one is fresh and pretty!

Now I am looking at my Goodwill pile with new eyes. Look at all that free fabric. I am seeing little girl dresses and baby pants from my stack of clothes we no longer wear. Hopefully you will be seeing more fun projects like this in the near future.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ahhhhh...a lazy Saturday morning....
Today, I was able rise early before the rest of the family. I made a pot of cinnamon tea to sip as I snacked on homemade biscotti while I did some reading and watched a summer storm roll in. It was deliciously wonderful. Then the house arose with the storm and we watched it billow through from our front porch. Just as I was thinking I should consider fixing breakfast, the baby awoke and called out to me his hunger - a beautiful excuse for me to slip away to my quiet bedroom to read and meditate and pray with my little one cuddled to my breast in cozy comfort. There is something about a nursing baby that makes all things seem right with the world - there is such contentment in it.

So, now baby is fed and I sit here journaling this, procrastinating leaving this cozy spot. I wonder how I can keep this relaxed feeling as I go downstairs to squabbling children and television noise. [sigh] But I cannot hide away here forever (if I try, the children are sure to find me eventually). So, I venture forth into my day, praying that I can continue to find peace in the midst of the chaos of life - God's presence in the midst of daily business.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


FOR TODAY Thursday, July 7, 2009...

Outside my window...
I see our newly planted Crimson King maple tree.

I am thinking...
about home organization and time management.

I am thankful for...
so much: my husband's job, our home, treasures that are growing in our yard.

From the learning rooms...
Anna is once again working on her claymation skills. Elizabeth is hard at work on a drawing for the 4-H fair. The younger set is on a break from formal lessons but have been outside in the yard discovering plants and herbs with me and reading.

From the kitchen...
I just tried a new recipe for granola bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Yum! It is sweet and cinnamon-y. I like that it includes fresh ground whole wheat and still tastes like a treat.

I am wearing...
the outfit that I wore yesterday (spit-up stains and all) because I desperately need to catch up on laundry.

I am creating...
-sweet little shorts for baby Samuel made out of an adorable John Deere print. I will have to post a photo later.
-an herbal tincture using pineapple weed from my driveway. It is supposed to be an effective bug spray. We'll see.

I am going...
to take my son for an allergy shot and probably go to Aldi's to stock up on canned and dry goods.

I am reading...
The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall, a couple of preschool Montessori books (I think one is called Teach Me to Do it Myself), and Sweet Booties with cute sewing projects for babies.

I am hoping...
to start feeling better. My sinuses are congested and causing painful headaches and my entire body has been incredibly achey. I would just love to feel well.

I am hearing...
my two year old steal my sanity with her screaming, my baby shake a toy and gurgle, my children having a discussion.

Around the house...
is messier than I would like. Hoping to fix that.

One of my favorite things...
is my baby's giggle which I get to hear a lot.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
I am hoping to get to the zoo for our Field Trip Friday. There are tentative plans for hubby to take the older 4 children on a little canoe trip on Saturday. And we are joining my BIL, SIL and family at their church this Sunday to check it out.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Here is my family as rendered by my daughter, Elizabeth. She created this for her dad for Father's day.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

"We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government... according to the Ten Commandments of God." —James Madison

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

And Happy Birthday U.S.A.! Today is a day to remember how this great nation began.
So, I feel it is necessary to post this video because it is tradition to subject my children and all of you to it. It is a good reminder of why we are celebrating this day.

(if you can't see this video, here's the direct link:

And just for fun, here is a great little stop motion. We love stop motion in this house and this is a great example.

(Here is the direct link to this video:

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Yesterday, I shared about my herbal discoveries in my yard. Free gifts that God has provided. Another treasure in my yard is mulberries. I went through my entire childhood never being exposed to mulberries. Probably because they are from a tree that grows like a weed and my mom was a diligent keeper of her yard. It wasn't until we bought our first house that sat across the street from a creek with a common area that I was introduced to them by my good friend and neighbor. She pointed them out on one of our many walks together with the kids. We would pick these messy purple berries to snack on and come home with stained fingers.

Since then we have moved to our rural property and I was elated to discover that we have a couple of mulberry trees growing along our creek. I usually discover that the berries have started ripening after the birds do and then it is slim picking, but this year I walked out to find the branches weighed down with TONS of ripe berries.

The next morning I took Elizabeth outside with a sheet and we did some tree shaking and picking. Ripe mulberries drop very easily, so if you place a sheet on the ground under one and shake the branches, you can get lots of berries very quickly. Between two trees, we got just over 10 pounds of berries! So, then we had to decide what to do with them all. I was debating between jam, jelly and syrup. The kids wanted jam or jelly. I decided jelly would be better because mulberries have a stem that cannot be easily removed. The basic difference between jelly and jam is that jam contains the whole fruit in chunks while jelly is made from the juice of the fruit and there are no chunks. Usually, I prefer jam, but if I made jam, it would still have those stems which some people may not find appetizing.

Luckily, I am the proud owner of a food mill which I picked up at our church's rummage sale last year for a whopping 50 cents - quite a find! This made the process of getting rid of those pesky stems much easier.

Making Mulberry Jelly
First, I cleaned and sorted the mulberries. Since we harvested them with a lot of tree shaking, I also had several leaves, small twigs and unripe berries in the mix. I sorted these out by hand and gave the fruit a good washing in a colander.

Next, I slowly heated the berries in a big pot on the stove until they began releasing their juice and the juice began to boil. I kept stirring them to make sure they cook evenly. This created a berry mush that I processed through my food mill. This removed all the skins, pulp and stems, but I did discover that the mulberry seeds are small enough to pass through the holes in my food mill. Seeds don't personally bother me at all, though.

The next step is to take the juice and mix it with sugar and pectin (following the quantities listed in the instructions that came with the pectin). Cook this according to the pectin directions and place it into warm canning jars that have already been washed and sterilized (boiled). I placed all my jars rings and lids into my big canning pot and brought it all to a boil and then just left them there until I was ready to use them.

After you fill the jars, leaving just about 1/4" of space at the top, you need to make sure that you didn't spill any on the rims. I take a damp washcloth and wipe them all to make sure because I am a bit of a slob in the kitchen. This is important because if the rims are not clean, the lids may not seal properly. You don't want to go to all this trouble and then have your stuff spoil because of this little step.

Place a hot lid on each jar and screw on a ring as tight as you can by hand. The finished jars get placed in a big pot of water. It is important that the water level is at least an inch above the top of the jars.

Then bring it all to a boil, covered, for 10 minutes. This is the amount of time for jams and jellies. Other things you can (i.e. tomatoes, peaches) take much longer.

After 10 minutes remove the jars and let them sit on the counter. A jar lifter makes this job much easier. I lay out a towel on the counter to place the wet jars on to cool.

That's it! I checked the jars after they had cooled to see if all had sealed. You do this by pushing down on the top of the lid. If it is sealed the lid will be slightly depressed and will not move at all. If it is not sealed the lid will push down and make a popping sound. I had one that did not seal and I just placed it in my fridge to use first.

Now, I made a boo boo and didn't read my directions carefully enough on my liquid pectin and used half of what I should have. So, my jelly didn't completely set. This was no great loss, though, because I ended up making a DELIGHTFUL syrup. I was considering making syrup anyway. We have tried it on pancakes and waffles. Yum! I bet it would be really good on ice cream, too.

The other day, I went out to try and pick more mulberries and didn't get nearly as many. They are definitely past their prime and the birds have taken their share. I did get a small bucketful that I think will be enough to make one batch of jelly. So, this is on the agenda for today.

So, I have shared more about my mulberries than anyone probably really wants to know. Perhaps you can go out and find one of these trees. They spring up like weeds and grow fast and you can find them in the most unexpected places. Maybe you, too, can share in this little blessing from God, mulberries.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


I have been having fun with herbs lately. It all started several weeks ago when my tummy was feeling horrible. I was really craving some sort of soothing tea to drink to settle my stomach. I was just sure that there was some herbal tea that would do just the trick, but was ignorant as to what that was. So, I went to my best source for info, the internet. I remembered that the Pearl's daughter was into herbs and had a little online shop. It was easy enough to find and there was tons of great information there.

I was instantly sucked in. I did discover that chamomile is great for settling a stomach and I happened to have some chamomile tea in my pantry which did help. I also discovered so much more. For example, I have a weed growing in my yard called plantain. I would bet that most of you reading this have seen it around, too. This little weed is actually an herb that was brought to North America by European settlers. Native Americans called it "white man's foot" because its seeds were spread by feet and seemed to start showing up wherever the white man settled. This herb is a wonderful external pain reliever. (See examples of how it can be used) Using directions I found online, I made a salve out of it and we have been using it on sunburns, and cuts and scrapes. It is our green boo boo cream. Rachel thinks it is so cool to use because I let her do it herself, which is so important to a two year old. I can do this because I know everything that is in that salve and it is perfectly safe, even if she were to eat it.

Now, I am totally intrigued by the concept of herbs. As I learn more, I am discovering that there are many useful plants growing all over my property. I think it is just amazing that God has provided these helpful things all over, free for the taking. It just takes opening our eyes to SEE. I have been stepping on these weeds for years never realizing what a treasure had been placed right before me. I wonder how many other gifts from God are underfoot, but I am either too blind or ignorant to see. It makes you think.